UN chief: Security Council resolution on settlements showed ‘leadership’
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UN chief: Security Council resolution on settlements showed ‘leadership’

Ban Ki-moon hails ‘significant step,’ urges Israeli, Palestinians to get back to negotiating table

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the Associated Press during an interview, in Marrakech, Morocco, November 16, 2016. (AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the Associated Press during an interview, in Marrakech, Morocco, November 16, 2016. (AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

The United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that the anti-settlements resolution passed earlier in the day at the Security Council with a US abstention was “a significant step” that showed leadership and demonstrated the “international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm” the vision of a two-state solution.

Ban also urged Israelis and Palestinians to work toward creating an environment that would allow a return to the negotiating table, and said that the UN would “support all concerned parties in achieving this goal.”

“The resolution is a significant step, demonstrating the Council’s much-needed leadership and the international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two states is still achievable,” Ban said in a statement, adding that he was taking the “opportunity to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work with the international community to create a conducive environment for a return to meaningful negotiations.”

Earlier Friday, the Security Council voted 14-0 to demand that Israel halt settlement activity, with the United States taking the rare step of refraining from wielding its veto to protect its closest Mideast ally.

Members of the UN Security Council applaud the approval of an anti-settlement resolution, on December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)
Members of the UN Security Council applaud the approval of an anti-settlement resolution, on December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

Israel reacted furiously to the move, accusing the US of “abandoning” the Jewish State, of engaging in unfriendly behavior, and of cooperating with the UN against Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Israel categorically rejects the despicable anti-Israeli resolution at the UN, and will not adhere to it.”

“The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the UN, it cooperated with it behind the scenes,” the PM added bitterly.

In a barely veiled final repudiation of the administration with which Netanyahu has clashed so often, his office said Israel was “looking forward to working with President-elect [Donald] Trump and with our friends in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to undo the damage of this absurd resolution.”

The Obama administration, for its part, shot back that Washington’s refusal to yield its veto power at the Security Council, allowing the measure to pass, came as a result of the Netanyahu government’s policies.

“Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today,” said Obama adviser Ben Rhodes on a media conference call Friday, after citing US governmental figures on settlement growth in the West Bank and mentioning the Israeli premier’s past statements on his government’s allegiance to the settlement movement.

Rhodes said that settlement activity “accelerated considerably” since the US vetoed a similar UN resolution in 2011, leading the US to believe that taking the same course of action — absent ongoing peace talks — would not yield different results.

“In the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the accelerated settlement activity,” he said, “we took the decision that we did today to abstain on the resolution.”

Trump issued a curt warning Friday afternoon that his administration could take an adversarial approach to the international body.

“As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” the president-elect tweeted shortly after the Security Council passed the resolution.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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